Glenwood imposes medical pot dispensary moratorium
Post Independent Staff
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Roaring Fork School Board member Myles Rovig attended Thursday’s Glenwood Springs City Council meeting in support of the newly adopted medical marijuana dispensary moratorium. However, he felt that council should go even further in regulating the industry.
“I am here to support your moratorium on medical marijuana stores in town, but I’m only here to support that if you take it a step further for the complete banishment of those stores,” Rovig pleaded with council.
Council passed the moratorium ordinance in another 4-3 vote on second reading on Thursday. It will prohibit any new dispensaries from opening up shop in Glenwood after June 17. Council pulled the item from the consent agenda for further discussion after Rovig’s comments.
Rovig told council that the situation regarding medical marijuana in Glenwood has gotten completely out of control and that the city needs to have the product regulated to the point where the real medical community is in control of distribution. Rovig then told council that the RFSD has seen an increase in expulsions directly related to the use or distribution of marijuana by students.
“We’ve had 20 expulsions this year,” Rovig said. “You think the kids haven’t figured it out? That they can get it, they can use it, and they can take it wherever they want because nobody seems to care. I think that is a problem that we need to deal with.”
Rovig noted that the 20 expulsions were districtwide and were not limited to Glenwood Springs. But Councilor Leo McKinney took exception to Rovig’s comments.
“I completely disagree with most of what you said,” McKinney said. “I think there is a lot of rhetoric out there that has been around for one hundred years, a lot of propaganda, and most of it’s proving not to be true.”
McKinney said that he understood Rovig’s concerns for the need of regulations, however he said, that those regulations need to be reasonable.
“I’m not opposed to decent, reasonable regulations, but I refuse to do so on the basis of fear,” McKinney said.
Both House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109, which are awaiting Gov. Bill Ritter’s signature, will put in place some preliminary guidelines. The new state bills will require dispensary owners to be registered and licensed with the state and local governments, and will also require owners to pass a criminal background check. Restrictions on dispensaries being within 1,000 feet of public or private schools are also included.
However, Rovig’s concerns don’t come without merit.
Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson confirmed a “substantial increase” in medical marijuana related instances this year at Glenwood Springs High School.
“We’ve had a number of arrests at, or in and around, the school this year,” Wilson said. “It’s become very routine.”
Wilson said that the increase in number of incidents this year was “ridiculous”, and that enacting a moratorium is a good start in regulating the industry in town.
“I was in support of [a moratorium] six months ago,” Wilson said. “I think it definitely has some benefits because we have a chance to review the legislation the state has passed and try to figure out what we as a community want to do with meeting state requirements.”
According to RFSD Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, the district has had at least 20 related instances of possession, use or distribution of marijuana, however she said that she couldn’t confirm if the cases were specifically related to medical marijuana or not.
“We’ve had at least 20 instances,” she said. “But if those all involved medical marijuana or not, I really could not say.”
Haptonstall said that the sudden increase could be attributed to legalization of marijuana for medical purposes and the mixed messages kids are getting about it.
“I think it seems like kids have seen marijuana as an OK thing to do,” she said.
The increase in marijuana related issues are a concern for her as a school administrator. The school district recently revised its policies to include the restriction of medical marijuana on school grounds.
The Glenwood Springs moratorium is in response to the highly controversial state legislation, HB 1284 and Senate Bill 109, that will impose statewide regulations on licensing and operating of dispensaries. The bill will also enact a one-year statewide moratorium on dispensaries from opening starting July 1. However, Gov. Bill Ritter has not signed the bill into law as of Friday.
Colorado voters adopted Amendment 20 to the state’s constitution in 2000, creating an exception from state criminal laws pertaining to the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. The industry has grown in numbers of locations that rivals Starbucks coffee shops across the state, spurring concern among citizens for communities to regulate the industry.
In the past 12 months, Glenwood has seen eight dispensaries open in town. City Council argued that the moratorium gives the city time to further determine what, if any, further regulations should be imposed, and that the need for the moratorium is necessary for the “preservation of the public safety, health and welfare,” according to the draft ordinance.
The draft ordinance states that the unregulated industry “presents serious health and safety concerns to the citizens of Glenwood Springs,” and that dispensaries present the possibility of increased criminal activity with large amounts of cash and marijuana inside the businesses.
However, Wilson said that police have not yet seen an increase in criminal activity with the dispensaries in town.
“I cannot think of one instance that we have had of a situation of that nature, so far,” Wilson said.
According to the city’s zoning laws, dispensaries that don’t grow their own product, fall into two categories of retail businesses, which are permitted in a wide variety of areas of town. However, in certain circumstances, if the dispensary does grow its own product, the cultivation of medical marijuana and related activities likely constitute agricultural or horticultural uses that may be restricted in the same areas.
The city currently has no land use or business regulation specifically addressing the establishment, location and operation of dispensaries in town.
Glenwood currently does not require licensing or permits, nor does it require dispensaries to keep records regarding the number of patients served. The city also hasn’t implemented limitation on quantities or on-site consumption. Those are several of the specifics that Council may struggle with over the next six months.
The moratorium will continue until Dec. 17. But that won’t really matter if Gov. Ritter signs HB 1284 into law, because the statewide moratorium will be in place until July 1, 2011.
Regardless, no dispensary will be allowed to open or operate in Glenwood except those that have been issued a sales tax license, and are in compliance with city requirements before June 17. The moratorium also requires current dispensaries to comply with all zoning requirements for the property.
Wilson said that he has spoken to two people in the past few weeks who were interested in opening dispensaries in town.
“Now they are hot to get in,” Wilson said.
He said that there is a good chance that Glenwood will have two additional dispensaries open in town before the moratorium is implemented on June 17, bringing the city’s total to 10.